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"When it comes to success in business, an MBA is optional. But a GSD, which is only earned by 'Getting Stuff Done', is required" - Christine Comaford
An MBA is generally seen as a ticket to a high flying career, jet setting lifestyle and in effect a path to the Career Nirvana. Aspirants around the globe have been fascinated and seduced by the rewards, this single degree promises. There are several hallowed and revered institutes like Harvard, Wharton, Yale and other Ivy Leagues which promise to put you on the road to El-Dorado once you manage to get an admit in their MBA program. So what exactly is this mythical course all about? What do these students learn in their 2 year or 1 year program which supposedly makes them "Masters of the Universe". In India, the management education is around 50 years old with the government of India establishing the Indian Institutes of Management in Ahmedabad and Calcutta in 1960s in collaboration with Ivy League universities of US. Currently, there are over 2,400 b-schools in India of which 1,999 are approved by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and 400 functions as unapproved private b-schools. Together, they have nearly 190,000 seats for a total pool of 3.5-4 lakh MBA aspirants who sit for the national and state-level MBA entrance exams.
Since 1990s, liberalization of the Indian economy, regulatory changes in the legal business environment and a growing culture of entrepreneurship has created an unprecedented growth in opportunities for the corporate sector which has resulted in a huge demand in the management field. Every year, a number of companies ranging from IT, Retail, Finance, telecommunication, manufacturing and others, recruit MBAs from various B-Schools across India. This has made courses in business management very lucrative for the aspirants and as a result the number of these courses offered has sky rocketed across the country. Quantitatively, it has been an impressive growth story.
However the quality of education reflected in the knowledge-base, the skill-set and the attitude of these newly churned out MBAs, is not up to the mark as expected by the industry. The authors have attempted to understand these existing gaps, where exactly they exist, and what is and can be done in reducing these gaps.
Key words: MBA, Education,India,Agenda,Reform
Introduction:The real problem lies in the wide gap between the real world and the academic world. In B schools, the model of the world which is presented to the students, is far more simplistic and predictable than the real world ever can be. The 2 years/1 year of management education which a student goes through should inculcate in him a sense of intense realism, which is the ability to see exactly what is and not through the lenses of preconditioned notions and ideas.
The characteristics of a super successful manager can be broadly defined into three main categories:
1. Attitude - This is the most important attribute in a manager/leader. "We hire people for attitude and train them for the skills" - As shared by one respondent during a skills gap survey. Attitude is an internal trait shaped by the personal experiences of a person right from a very young age. They are less likely to be taught or even teachable. If a professional enters into a company with a right attitude, the required skills can always be acquired on the job through training. But if a person lacks the right attitude then he/she can become more of a liability than an asset for an organization.
2. Skills - They can be broadly classified into three main categories:
a) Technical Skills - Core skills based on applying knowledge in functional areas such as finance, OB-HR, marketing, IT in management, etc.
b) Communication Skills - Verbal and Written skills, Presentation skills, listening skills
c) Interpersonal skills-Conflict Resolution, selling skills
3. Knowledge - Environmental knowledge- External as well as internal to the organization where the MBA graduate intends to work in the future.
The B Schools should focus on inculcating the above mentioned attributes in their MBA students so that the primal objective of a management education - Creating world class managers and leaders- is achieved. Now, Let us enumerate the features of a hypothetical B School which manages to churn out successful managers. The features described in Figure 1 can only be effective for management education if they satisfy certain key requirements which have been described in Figure 2.
FEATURES OF A B-SCHOOL AND RESPECTIVE REQUIREMENTS
GOOD STUDENT QUALITY (ADMISSION CRITERIA)
RELEVANT WORK EXPERIENCE
APPROPRIATE BATCH SIZE
NUMBER OF RESEARCH SCHOLARS ENROLLED
GOOD FACULTY TO STUDENT RATIO ( >= 1:10 )
REQUIRED ACADEMIC BACKGROUND (PHDs)
GREAT INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE
(NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL PUBLISHING RECORD)
CAPABILITY FOR CONCEIVING INDUSTRIAL
CAPACITY TO GENERATE CASE STUDIES
EMPHASIS ON GROUND REALITY
INDUSTRY DRIVEN CURRICULUM
FOCUS ON KNOWLEGDE, ATTITUDE AND SKILL DEVELOPMENT
FOSTERING ENTERPRENEURIAL ABILITIES AND ATTITUDE
CENTRES OF EXCELLANCE IN FOCUS AREAS
GLOBAL EXPOSURE (EXCHANGE PROGRAMMES)
EXTENSIVE INDUSTRY EXPOSURE (INTERNSHIPS, INDUSTRY VISITS)
Gaps between Academic and Industry expectation: A B-School can be considered as an organization which takes students as raw materials, processes them for two years/1 year, does value addition to them and finally produces the finished good i.e. MBA graduates ready to meet the challenges of the industry.
As per Merit Trac's employability report on MBA, there are around 100,000 MBA graduates being churned out every year in India. Though, the industry requirement across industries every year is 128,000, only around 23% (i.e. approx. 23000) of the total MBA graduates manage to satisfy the industry expectation. The industry demand is not met because of the discrepancy between the skill set of the fresh MBA graduates straight out of B Schools and the industry expected skills.
The Higher Education Forum (HEF) initiated the Skills Gap Survey between November 2009 and January 2010 to study the gaps between industry expectations and performance of fresh MBAs. This Survey looked at newly hired MBAs in the Indian Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance (BFSI) sector.The findings of the survey were that the industry has highest expectations for fresh MBAs in the area of Attitudes, followed by Skills, and finally by Knowledge.
The results are as followed:Expectation and performance scores
Employer's expectation rating and performance assessment of newly hired MBAs by attitude, skill and knowledge area.
Why these Gaps exist:
There are several common identifiable factors for these gaps
1. Motive behind doing MBA -Â The students are not clear about their purpose of doing an MBA. A common logic most of them have is: getting a better pay package and attaining a managerial position in their professional career. So setting the right expectations and sensitizing them about the management field right from the schooling days will make them more aware, enthusiastic and focused on whether they really need a management degree.
2. Admission Process - The Indian admission process for various B schools which consist of a written exam, followed by Group discussion and Personal Interview is fairly good but still has some inherent weaknesses. There are very bright students who may not be very good in cracking aptitude tests but have the potential of becoming excellent managers because of their unique perspective about life and the experiences they have gone through in life. But, these students end up getting sidelined because of the rigid process.
3. Faculty - Faculty recruitment should not be based only on degrees and research accomplished by a person, but also what that person has done outside the academic world. Is that person capable of applying his knowledge in the real world? Does Industry consult him for his expertise? This becomes a very important attribute in a faculty as MBA teaching requires practical examples for students to relate to. How up to date is he with the latest happenings in his field or is he still reciting 30 year old theories and examples from the textbooks? If a person has excellent experience in the field so his pre-requisites for education in that particular field should be waived off in case of faculty selection.
4. Need for improvement in Curriculum and Pedagogy - The curriculum needs to be more attuned with the existing latest requirements of the field in which the student wishes to make his career. The bright eyed MBA believes that he is the "Master of the Universe" once he passes out of college, but every knowledge is very contextual in nature, so a theory working in North America or Germany may not work in India or Bangladesh. We need to have indigenous theories which take into account the Indian culture and preferences.
5. Research Scenario - Several research scholars drop out even before completing their research thesis as they get lucrative offers from the corporate world during their study itself. So, the academia loses bright people to corporate and professional world and loses new research and new insights which could have been discovered in the process.
How to fill the gaps: Authors have suggested the following approaches for dealing with the current management education trend in India and their ramifications. The authors have stressed on process re-engineering within the existing academic structure in a B School rather than advocating policy changes or suggesting solutions which require considerable financial investment.
Inclusion of Management subjects in School curriculum:
Subjects should be included at 8th - 10th Standard level giving a good overview of the management subjects and their applicability in the real world. Getting a foundational grounding in business subjects at such formative age, the students will be able to appreciate the importance and relevance of management as an education. Further, they will be able to decide if management is the field they would like to pursue in their professional/academic career later on. As a result, the applicant pool which will apply to B Schools will be more focused towards studying Management.
However, the challenge lies in the introduction of basic management subjects and it will require an effort on the part of educational institutions and government bodies in recognizing this as an important subject for the students at an early stage and finally implementing it. Though, the approach towards the subjects at the school level should be in a more practical and fun format.
Foundation Boot camp for freshers (without work-experience) for inculcating organizational / industrial outlook: There are a considerable percentage of freshers (students straight after under-graduation degree) in B-Schools around the country. But this carries a paradox too since the freshers who don't have prior work experience don't have the required exposure and industrial outlook which can prove to be an obstacle in their learning process as relating the management concepts from the book to real life can be a problem without prior work experience. But, it's a blessing also, because they haven't been indoctrinated into any corporate culture already and have a fresh mind to look into management concepts. Still, to expose them to the way of thinking of a person with a few years experience in industry, foundation boot camps can be organized within the initial 2-3 weeks on campus with sessions like "A Day in the life of an executive", "How Managers think", 'How leaders see" and so on.
It will give them a perspective on what to really expect out of a management career, how different fields look like when you are actually working in them. The boot camp is not about indoctrinating the freshers into any new way of thinking but it is about sharing insights and listening to what other people have learned from their experience. Getting the people from industry as well from the batch itself to speak about their tryst with the corporate world and other organizations can be an effective step in this direction.
The boot camps can be organized in many innovative ways.
Let's say the strength of a batch is 100 people with 40 people having work experience and 60 people as freshers. Then, the 40 people batch with work experience can be classified by the industries and the amount of time they have worked. After this, we can have knowledge as well as Q&A sessions industry wise for the whole batch.
Studying Indian Texts on Management: Harish Bijoor, leading management consultant, feels Indian managers are still smitten by western management philosophies. "I routinely quote from texts like the Ramayana in the sessions that I hold for corporates around the world and it is ironical that businesses in countries like Germany and France are adopting the wisdom of Vedas while our people are still besotted with western philosophies."
The present day management fundamentals were mentioned and practiced in India at least more than 2,500 to 3,000 years ago. The wisdom of the ancient Indian scriptures may come in handy in tackling issues from management strategies to corporate governance in today's highly competitive world of business. Motivational gurus and management experts like Deepak Chopra, C.K. Prahalad, ArindamChaudhuri, Shiv Khera and Mrityunjay B. Athreya are increasingly borrowing from ancient Hindu scriptures to cope with the modern-day business management challenges.
To learn, understand and apply Indian tools for the management of the business seems a value addition to the western tools of learning in management education.
The modern (Western) management concepts of vision, leadership, motivation, excellence in work, achieving goals, giving work meaning, decision making and planning, are all discussed in the Bhagavad Gita. There is one major difference. While Western management thought too often deals with problems at material, external and peripheral levels, the Bhagavad Gita tackles the issues from the grass roots level of human thinking which addresses the need of the hour as expressed by the corporate world i.e. attitude of the management professionals with required skill set and knowledge.
"Kautilya'sArthashastra is not a book; it is a Library on Management. Chanakya was not a person he was a university". His management ideas written in Kautilya'sArthashatra are still very much relevant in today's corporate world. Taking into consideration the various nuances of business, this text will aspire to impart grounding in areas which impact the short, middle and long term success of business. "Kautilya's "Arthashstra", also gives emphasizes based on human behaviour. The way things have been mentioned in the book, no student of modern behavioural sciences can doubt that it has been done with a deep and an extensive knowledge of human behaviour
MrBalakrishnan M has rightly said "The lessons from Ramayana can also be applied in modern management of organization especially the leadership qualities of Lord Rama in administration of Ayodhya and there are also many modern management concepts such as EQ, MBO, Kaizen, strategic planning, organizing principles and etc. where its origin can be traced from Valmiki Ramayana."
The extravagant tale of Mahabharata is full of morals and principles, of role-models and icons and of positive inspiration and righteous ways. All characters in Mahabharata can be compared to India, Inc. leadership cutting across the different rungs. Whether it is human behaviour, organizational behaviour, group theory, motivational theory, game theory, management by objectives or line of control, all facets of modern management can be discovered in Lord Krishna, Arjuna, Bhisma, Dronacharya and others.
So, learning from such rich sources can prove to an enriching learning experience for the students and help them in becoming effective managers. The students can better relate from the Indian texts which will enhance their learning and they may give performance as desired by the companies on almost every parameter they are assessed in respective terms of their priority.
The challenge would be to develop a structural learning process of these rich Indian texts for the MBA students which require an effort on the part of faculty and researchers who have contributed in the area of management learning from the Indian texts.
Emphasis on Research on Campus: If we take a critical look at the management education given in India barring the top 1st tear B schools, we find that focus is more on the earning which will be there at the end of the management education. But, if we look at the top notch B schools like Harvard, Yale, etc the focus on research has been unwavering. Any MBA School has a unique opportunity of having a batch of bright minds together on the campus. So, if we are able to leverage on that, and use some innovative techniques to foster discussion among the students and faculty on generating new insights from the myriad happenings in daily life which can be related to business. Instead of just learning from the books and lectures during one's management education, it can also be the other way round. Students should ask themselves these questions: what's the fresh perspective you bring as an individual to this world? What are some of the absurdities you see in the world around you? How do you leverage on your unique strengths? Then collate these ideas and relate to business and document them.
Then, a rich collection of ideas and insights can be collected from the students. The research should not be looked as just a formal presentation of ideas in a research paper format and then publishing them in management journals. But, a new approach of insight finding about life in general should be cultivated. Management is about managing one's life in an optimum way. It requires self-knowledge and perspective of looking at the world in which it makes sense and is actionable. The "Do Can" attitude should be a result of that knowledge and perspective. More than just feeding theories and case studies, it should also be a time for the students to know themselves and develop a unique perspective about the world. They should have a sense of direction about their unique strengths and what contributions they would like to make in the world from a commercial as well as holistic view.
If we compare the academic world and the real world, one of the difference would be that in the academic scenario, sometimes the formality and the way the data is presented becomes very important, sometimes more important than the insight which the data presents.
We are looking at a very practical research culture which results in numerous insights about how the real business world operates.
We want the student to be equipped with a very practical and down to earth thinking when it comes to execution in the real world rather than just recalling pure theories from a management textbook. Thinking on feet can only come by the mental attitude of looking at things critically and evaluating them in the required context. Such an attitude can be developed by focusing on the reality around and by having a very unique and individualized perspective on it. MBA should not be perceived as a factory for churning managers; it should more like a place where the student is transformed into a leader in his own way. He develops a perspective on the world and is ready to take on his own personal battle.
On Campus Earning for faculty and B school: A professor at IIM earns about one tenth the salary of an IIM graduate and increments come by irregularly, in some cases once in seven years. This finding can be generalized for comparing the prospects in teaching as a profession and working as a professional in the corporate world. It seems almost impossible to invite the talent from the corporate world and retain them as faculty members.
This monetary difference is huge and it demotivates the bright and talented people, who are actually interested in pursuing teaching as a profession but choose to work in industry because of better economic prospects.
To deal with this problem, we have thought of lowering down this monetary difference as is observed in US where the faculty earns comparable to the salary earned in industry. Are the faculty members paid higher salaries? Answer is "No". They earn huge income from the corporate projects which they undertake along with teaching.
So, the B-Schools who concentrate on forming corporate relationships mainly for the internships, placements of the students and for inviting the industry people to give hands on industrial knowledge to the students, should also work for helping the faculty members in getting corporate consultancy projects. The faculty members who have tremendous experience are in touch with the industry and don't find much difficulty in grabbing such projects but the new-comers who join B-Schools without any prior industrial work-experience find it really difficult to get such projects because they don't have proper networking links with the industry. So, in such cases the placement committee, which is the most important part of a B-School, should work with the faculty members who have links in the corporate world to help the new faculty members in attaining the consultancy projects.
Bagging Corporate Consultancy assignments is not the only consideration but to deliver them successfully with the highest degrees of customer ecstasy is also important.
The majority of the Indian b-Schools are involved in run-of-the mill teaching process and the faculty members devoting maximum time in teaching, teaching and teaching having left with little or no time to bag and deliver corporate consultancy assignments. So, flexibility for teaching hours will have to be provided to the faculty members to deal with this discrepancy. "I found unless you have really good people for administrative support, a lot of time of the faculty is used up in doing administrative work" says Shekhar Chaudhuri, Director of IIM Calcutta.
Again the teaching staffs are found to be involved in administrative works since the loophole lies in having an appropriate no. of people and a good quality of people in the administrative staff. So, the consideration should be given to such problem by focusing on improving the efficiency of the administrative department of any B-School by recruiting the required number of quality professionals for carrying out administrative activities.
Are faculty members motivated to consult primarily for economic reasons? Outside professional consulting influences faculty behaviour and activities in the academic institution. The holistic and practical learning of the MBA graduates is related to the nature and extent to which faculty are influenced in their research and academic objectivity by their outside professional relationships. The knowledge shared by faculty members is backed by practical aspects which is need of the hour as expressed by the corporate since MBA graduates seem to be so far from application of the concepts they learn in their management education.
Also, it has been observed that faculty members are not doing the kind of research that is valued by companies as well as the practicing managers. By working on the corporate assignments the faculty can better understand the industrial issues being faced and can align their research work on those lines such that their work is valued in the corporate world.
The challenge is on various frontiers including gaining the confidence level of the corporate world to an extent that they can trust them and deliver a consulting assignment which can add value to both the faculty member and the corporate world.
The authors believe that given the current trend in management education in India, a strong need for a reassessment of MBA education and its pedagogy is required. All problems have an economic angle to it which causes the problem in the first place. For improving the MBA educational experience for the students, a good amount of resources, both monetary as well as human, are required. But then, using innovation and creativity, one can cross these hurdles and excel without having too many resources at one's disposal.
Various solutions and approaches have been suggested like sensitizing students towards management subjects during schooling itself, organizing foundation boot camps for freshers (students without work experience) for bringing them at par with their peers (having work
experience), laying emphasis on discussing insights and wisdom from ancient Indian and Asian texts, focus on management research on campus, and encouraging and facilitating faculty to bring consulting projects on campus from the industry. Getting a chance to participate in live consulting projects on campus, students will be able to apply theoretical management concepts to real world situations.
In the end, Management boils down to "How good you are working with other people and how clearly you are able to see the big picture without any distortion". So, the greatest need is to produce leaders who think holistically and not just the top line of their firm's balance sheets. We need leaders who are compassionate and not just profit generating machines. We need leaders who are well versed with human history and who believe in making a better future for all of us.
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